By Andrew Wroblewski
For as long as video games have existed, the people who play them – also known as “gamers” – have carried a stigma of being shut-ins and geeks; people who would rather sit in a dark room with a controller in their hands than go outside and socialize.
But if you tell that to Rory O’Donoghue, founder of World Gamer Nation, he’ll say that the stigma is actually a misconception – and he’s proving it.
Located at 66 Broadway in Greenlawn, World Gamer Nation is a local area network (LAN) gaming center. What that means, simply put, is that people come to the venue, opened by O’Donoghue in late 2012, to play video games – either with friends, strangers or just themselves.
“A lot of LAN centers divide you, separate you [from other people]… I designed this place to be open,” O’Donoghue, of Greenlawn, said. “It’s designed for cooperative play, to sit together and socialize [while] playing a game.”
With 16 Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles, four Sony PlayStation 3 consoles, a Nintendo Wii U, 10 custom-built gaming computers, a slew of “classic” offerings – such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis – and more screens than gamers can shake a keyboard at, World Gamer Nation has something to offer everyone.
With these offerings spring social butterflies from the very same gamers that carry a reputation of reclusion.
“It’s interesting to see what happens because you’ll have someone just walk over, see someone playing a game and they don’t know each other at all,” said O’Donoghue, a graduate of Elwood-John H. Glenn High School. “It could be a guy who is 25 years old playing some random [game]… and some 13-year-old will walk by and say, ‘Oh! What is that?’ All of a sudden you have this interaction and they’re talking to each other – where else do you see that?”
This social interaction does not just draw the line at “hardcore gamers” (typically, males ages 18-25 who dedicate most of their free time to video games); it’s a hit with families, too.
“If you have a family, you can do this together. It’s something that can bridge a generation gap nowadays,” O’Donoghue, 36, said. “We have two families that come in… regulars.”
For World Gamer Nation, this motif of welcoming people of any and all ages isn’t just a ploy to increase sales; it’s where they feel the gaming industry as a whole is headed.
“We’re selling an environment in which you can game in,” Chris Musto, events and marketing coordinator for World Gamer Nation, said. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between that ‘closet’ gamer and the perception that gamers are shut-ins and giving them an environment where they can actually be social and do what they enjoy.”
Visitors to the space enjoy $7/hour pricing while members ($45/year) receive a discounted price of $5/hour. Hours are transferable and don’t have to be used up on the spot.
Day passes are available for $20 (members) and $25 (non-members), which allow gamers to enjoy a full day – from 12 p.m. to close – of playtime on the countless consoles and computers O’Donoghue and his crew have to offer. Night passes are also offered from 5 p.m. to close for $13 and $15, respectively.
And the LAN center is just one piece of the puzzle, or – as Musto said – it’s actually just “the gravy on top.”
Along with everyday life at the center, World Gamer Nation hosts private parties. A bachelor party is set to hit the venue soon. Kids’ parties are also always an option – and they are by no means restricted to the space in Greenlawn.
“This LAN center is basically a proof of concept on what we can do anywhere,” Musto, of Long Beach, said.
All 16 of the Xbox 360 consoles that World Gamer Nation operates are fully transportable and have made appearances at parties and events ranging from bar mitzvahs to the Greenlawn Fireman’s Fair, and everything in between.
Tournaments are also a major hit for World Gamer Nation. Gamers come down throughout the year to compete for a variety of prizes in some of the world’s most competitive games, like Call of Duty and League of Legends – for which the crew hopes to start a Long Island league for in the coming months.
O’Donoghue, who has a background in networking and computers, has expanded that to his business.
“We’re not just a LAN center… The information technology (IT) side of our business is huge,” Musto said. “We’re IT professionals that know exactly how to network and how to do this all for businesses, [which] we do all over Huntington. We just serviced an accounting firm in Huntington and did a full overhaul of their IT infrastructure.”
Along with servicing businesses, World Gamer Nation also makes house calls and repairs computers on site.
O’Donoghue is also working to spread this knowledge of computer do’s and don’ts to kids – and he’s trying to do it while they’re still gaming. Beginning this summer, World Gamer Nation hopes to roll out an “after-school club” for the world’s biggest game, Minecraft, where kids will be able to come, play the game and learn a thing or two about computers.
“What we’re trying to do is enrich it so that people can be comfortable with their kids gaming and also know that they’re learning, too,” Musto said.